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Idaho legislature partly denied from joining federal abortion suit

The dome of the Idaho Statehouse at sunset with an American flag and Idaho flag.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Attorneys for the Idaho Legislature will be allowed to take part in a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration to block the state’s near-total abortion ban, but there are conditions.

A federal judge will only allow the legislature to argue in court against the justice department’s request to halt the near-total abortion ban from taking effect. That law will be enforceable starting Aug. 25.

Lawmakers, who have been at odds with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden for years, say his office wouldn’t defend the law as well as they could.

Judge Lynn Winmill’s denial questions that argument, saying both Wasden and Gov. Brad Little have pushed to outlaw abortion for years.

"The Idaho Legislature can point to no evidence that the State, represented by the Attorney General, has expressed any misgivings about the Total Abortion Ban, or that the State is concerned with interests distinct from the Legislature’s that would prevent it from focusing solely on “defending the law vigorously on the merits,” without an eye to other concerns," he wrote.

Winmill stopped short of DOJ’s request to completely exclude the legislature. It said lawmakers shouldn’t be allowed to join because the case is being fast-tracked.

The expediency of the case, he wrote, " ... is largely of the United States’ own making. It chose to delay filing this case and its motion for preliminary injunction for over six weeks after the Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision."

Oral arguments on the motion to block the law are set for Aug. 22.

The federal case is the last pending legal challenge to halt the ban before it takes effect next week.

On Friday, the Idaho Supreme Court declined to stay the implementation of Idaho's two pending abortion bans and lifted its hold on another law that allows families of an aborted fetus to sue a doctor who performs an abortion after six weeks.

The 3-2 ruling said Planned Parenthood, which filed the three challenges, failed to show they would likely win the cases on the merits, even though it demonstrated pregnant women and doctors would likely experience significant harm from the laws.

The majority said the organization needed to meet both benchmarks to qualify for a stay.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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